One of the most visually striking science fictional solutions to our hunger for energy has to be SBSP – solar power beamed from space. Nothing says ‘awesome’ quite so much as a lance of coherent energy zapping through the atmosphere and into a collection station before powering your toaster or charging your pod-car…. but how soon might it turn up?
According to the not-so-imaginatively named start-up company called Space Energy, Inc, it could be soon. Space Energy says “it plans to develop SBSP satellites to generate and transmit electricity to receivers on the Earth’s surface […] The hitch: this concept is based on as yet unproven technology.”
For ‘unproven’ there, you might want to swap in ‘sketchy’:
… the actual test results conducted for a Discovery channel documentary proved a total failure. The former NASA executive and physicist who organized the experiment, a John Mankins, admitted in a press conference that the $1 Million budget spent of the experiment resulted in less than 1/1000th of 1% of the power transmitted being received on the other island.
Ouch. I wonder if SE, Inc are sincere but a little deluded, or whether they’re another snake-oil energy company? There’s been a few of those cropping up recently, and I can’t help but suspect there’ll be more to come… especially when the price of oil starts rising again.
Still, maybe two decades will do it for space-based solar – apparently the Japanese are on the case:
Researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have begun to develop the hardware for a SBSP satellite they hope to launch by 2030. They will begin testing this month of a microwave power transmission system designed to beam the power from the satellites to Earth.
All very well, but will no one think of the birds?